Spray it ain’t so: A Brooklyn community board used $20,000 in special City Council funds to tidy its overgrown grounds with a weed-killer that a pending bill would ban on city property.
Among the sponsors of the glyphosate ban bid is Councilmember Fernando Cabrera (D-The Bronx), who last year secured $42,500 in extra aid for each of the city’s 59 community boards. He recently announced the funding would be renewed for the fiscal year that begins Tuesday.
Cabrera was not available to comment on the use of glyphosate by the Bergen Beach community board when THE CITY attempted to reach him last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
On March 15, Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano authorized the landscaping firm Dragonetti Brothers to clear weeds and debris, spray weed-killer and put down mulch along a strip bordering the board’s parking lot, for $20,000, records show.
The board’s Bergen Avenue property sits on the Paerdegat Basin, which runs into ecologically fragile Jamaica Bay.
“Apply glyphosate to newly clear and grubbed areas prior to application of filter fabric,” read the service order.
The following month, Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) introduced a proposed ban on all chemical pesticides and weed-killers on city-owned and leased properties — and within 75 feet of a body of water or wetland. Cabrera signed on as one of five other sponsors.
Kallos, who also sponsored a previous version of the measure, said he’s concerned his young daughter could be harmed by chemicals sprayed at city parks.
“Community boards should not be using their budgets to purchase pesticides for beautifying their landscapes,” Kallos said. “It is putting the city employees at the community boards at risk — and everyone else in the community.”
Submitting testimony for a 2017 Council Committee on Health hearing in support of his prior bill, public health experts from Mt. Sinai’s Children’s Environmental Health Center called glyphosate “of particular concern,” citing studies signaling potential health risks.
Green Light From EPA
There is no consensus in the international scientific community on the health or environmental risks posed by the weed-killer glyphosate. But numerous jurisdictions in the United States and around the world — including Miami, Vancouver and Minneapolis — have banned use of the herbicide because of health concerns.
Thousands of lawsuits are currently being waged against Bayer, the owner of Monsanto, which makes the glyphosate weed-killer Roundup, alleging that it’s causing cancer.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in 2015 that the herbicide is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” meaning it has the potential to cause cancer.
In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, conducting a once-every-15-year review required of all pesticides, found glyphosate “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” The agency is accepting public comments on that decision until Friday, July 5.
Weeds Grew Like Weeds
Turano conceded she was unaware of the chemicals the company applied. “I don’t know what they used,” she said.
Whatever it was, Turano said, it didn’t kill the weeds the first time a crew applied the substance in May. More weeds popped up after the landscapers completed the job, she said, so they had to come back and spray again.
Turano said weeds have sprouted on the property surrounding the board’s building for years.
In an email to board members on May 28 — days after THE CITY first exposed another Brooklyn community board’s contested use of the funds to purchase an SUV — Turano disclosed the $20,000 expenditure and explained its necessity.
Volunteers have long tried to hack the weeds down, she told THE CITY, but haven’t been successful taming the brush.
“Honest to God, that was a health hazard,” she said.
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